Book Box, Cuir bouilli (tooled leather), polychromy, Italian

Book Box

15th century
Cuir bouilli (tooled leather), polychromy
Overall: 6 3/8 x 6 1/2 x 1 3/4in. (16.2 x 16.5 x 4.4cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Harry G. Friedman, 1952
Accession Number:
52.131a, b
Not on view
During the Norman rule of the eleventh century, southern Italy, particularly Salerno and its neighboring cities, developed, under Arabic influence, into a major center of medieval studies. By the twelfth century, much of the extant medieval knowledge had been complied in alphabetical compendia, which served as a basis of knowledge for the ensuing centuries of the Middle Ages. While the compendia, herbals, and the like reflected a considerable scientific knowledge, medical practices were still influenced by superstitions, horoscopic prognostications, and traditional remedies. Consequently, late medieval texts in common usage were mixtures of scientific and fallacious information. The widely circulated Gart der Gesundheit was typical, containing herbal cures of demonstrated medicinal value, some of which are still in use today, as well as more fantastic compounds such as ground unicorn horn, considered a universal cure. Nonetheless, these books were valued highly, and fitted leather cases to protect them were not unusual. While this example is too small to have help a complete herbal or compendium, the inscription: MEDIXINA VIRTU VIVE ("live by the virtue of medicine") does indicate it was used to hold a medical text of some soft. Practitioners often attached such cases to their belts as they traveled about calling on their patients.
Inscription: MEDIXINA . VIRTV . VIVE
Harry G. and Adele O. Friedman, New York (until 1952)
New York. The Cloisters Museum & Gardens. "The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages," March 28, 1975–June 15, 1975.

Husband, Timothy B., and Jane Hayward, ed. The Secular Spirit: Life and Art at the End of the Middle Ages. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1975. no. 190, p. 172.